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New Orleans Preparing; Coronavirus Cases Growing in United States; Interview With Former Vice President Joe Biden. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 31, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A Vietnam veteran who loved to surf leaves behind his wife and three sisters.

We think of them all.

Special coverage continues now with Brooke Baldwin.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.

Every day, deaths from coronavirus climb to unimaginable numbers, the number of deaths in the United States yesterday, the most so far in one day, 575. And every one of those numbers is someone's family member or someone's friend.

Right now, the total death toll in the us tops 3,000. It is more than 3,500. And the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, predicts that there could be a resurgence, a second wave of coronavirus, come this fall.

The more optimistic outlook regarding that, Dr. Fauci does predict that the U.S. will be better prepared for that second wave. And he says there are some small signs that social distancing is working.

In just a few moments, I'll talk to the former vice president, current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden about this pandemic.

But, first, we want to begin in New York, where more than 75,000 people have now tested positive. Governor Cuomo today stressing his frustration with getting medical supplies, saying it is -- quote -- "like being on eBay," bidding with states, and warning the apex in New York is anywhere between seven to 21 days away.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins me now.

And, Shimon, how are these hospitals handling all these cases?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's been a tough few days, certainly, for the hospitals. And it keeps getting tougher. I have been talking to people inside hospitals. And, every day, you

just hear different kinds of stories, heroic stories for the doctors and the nurses that are really trying to work on patients and keep patients alive.

What the city is doing to try and relieve some of the pressure on these hospitals, on these doctors, on these nurses, and then really the entire staff at these hospitals, is by building out these field hospitals.

What you see behind me, the ship here, the Comfort, this is why it's here. It's here to try and relieve the pressure. What they're going to be doing at some point -- and this could be in the next few days -- they're ready to start taking patients.

But the city has to go through a process of picking out which patients they can bring to these hospitals out to these field hospitals. So it's going to have to be patients who don't have coronavirus. There are other issues that they need to make sure they clear before they bring it.

This isn't going to be just people randomly showing up here. The city is working with the hospitals in what I'm told is a decanting process. That's how a state official described it to me. And so they're picking people and, at some point, they're all going to be transported to the Javits Center, to the hospital here behind me on the ship, and other field hospitals.

There is an enormous amount of stress that right now hospitals are feeling. You heard the governor talking about it. This is why they're trying to transfer patients even who have coronavirus. So let's say, if you have coronavirus in one hospital, but you don't need a ventilator, there's a chance they could move you around to try and relieve the stress, so that if one hospital has more critical patients, they can take away some of the less critical and those hospitals can focus on the critical patients.

But that is the key right now, Brooke, hospitals, hospitals, making sure that they have the resources they need, and also relieving some of the stress and the pressure that they're facing, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We're talking to one of these nurses here in New York City a little later in the hour just about how they're keeping morale up, given all the pressures on them, and how they're helping so many people.

Shimon, thank you very much in New York.

Let's go to Washington.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House.

And, Kaitlan, we are also now starting to hear from the president and also Dr. Fauci that maybe it is time for all of us to start wearing masks. Where's that coming from?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a new idea that the task force is now actively considering, Dr. Fauci says.

And it's notable, given what you were hearing from the surgeon general just earlier this month and what the current government guidance is, which is that regular people do not need to be wearing masks, and they're actually urging them not to buy them.

But now Dr. Fauci said it is under consideration, but listen to what he said about their reasoning for potentially not issuing that guidance just yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: But when we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks. We're not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So, Brooke, he's really basically saying that they are considering it, but they are hesitant to do so because they're worried it's going to threaten that already low supply of masks for health care workers.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

We also know, Kaitlan, that the president extended his stay-at-home guidance to 30 more days. But you have some reporting that there was a lot of internal debate, right, over whether or not to do that.

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COLLINS: Yes, and a lot of that started with the president, who was resistant to doing that, initially wanted the country open by Easter.

But they were discussing this. You saw the doctors showing the president models, models that we are expecting the public to get a first look at today that were predicting, even if these measures are followed perfectly, that still hundreds of thousands of Americans could die.

So that is something that's considering -- that people in the White House are considering. But some people believe those projections could be overblown, that they may be overstated, and that maybe they should have just done guidance for an additional 15 days.

But, in the end, the president with 30, because he felt it was better if he could ease up on the guidance later on than rather have 15 days and have to implement stricter measures during those 15 days, when some states like New York state are expecting to see their peak in cases.

BALDWIN: And, Kaitlan, yesterday, the president told governors on a call that there wasn't any problem with the testing. Is that true?

COLLINS: Yes, the president has been having these calls with governors. The vice president has been having many of them.

And the president said that the testing issue in the nation had been resolved. Of course, this is one of our first ones. But governors like Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, we should note, are saying that what the president is saying just simply isn't true. He says his state is still having issues with testing.

And while they are trying to roll out new measures that can have faster and expedited testing, he says, we're not there yet and there is just still not widespread availability of these tests just yet, though they wish it would get there sooner, rather than later, of course.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you at the White House.

Let's go back to this conversation about whether we should all be wearing masks, and bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Should we? Masks?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what? You know what? The surgeon general on February 29 said, no, they're not effective.

But doctors telling me, you know what, he's not right about that. Public health makes recommendations on two different bases. One, will it help the public health? Will keep us safe? And the other one is, is it feasible? Is it feasible?

So, at the time, a month ago, we didn't want Americans running out, running around getting masks, because we were trying to conserve them for health care workers. But to say that they weren't effective, many doctors I'm talking to say that's just not true. They say that it is effective.

But the problem still stands. And I'm sure this is what the task force is grappling with, is, you tell people, hey, we think you ought to wear masks, but where are they supposed to get them? They are still very difficult to get. We still do need to prioritize health care workers.

It's to the point, Brooke, where you can go on YouTube and find plenty of doctors, even entire health care systems, giving instructions on how to make your own. I mean, who knew? You can actually make your own mask. It's actually not all that complicated.

But that's the point that we're at. If we're going to start telling Americans they need to wear masks, we need to figure out, how are they going to do this?

BALDWIN: So, to that point, and whether it's make your own mask or these designers, right, who have all this fabric, and they're making masks as well, where are we supposed to find these masks to wear?

COHEN: Right. Exactly. So, there -- I mean, I am told that you cannot find them. They are very difficult to buy, but that you can make them yourself, which I know sounds a little crazy. But I have been told by people that they have gone to a fabric store or even using fabric in their own home, and they have made their own masks.

It is not that we are suggesting this. I am just telling you that there are doctors on YouTube, reputable doctors, who are giving instructions on how to make your own masks. I know a doctor whose wife is sitting in their basement right now making masks.

That is, unfortunately, where we have come to. And, Brooke, I will tell you, these doctors are saying, look, is a mask going to 100 percent protect you? No. Is it better than not wearing a mask? They think so.

BALDWIN: Is this for people who mostly live in densely populated areas, cities, or everybody?

COHEN: So, again, the doctors that I have been talking to that are advocating this, they say, look, unless you were in your home alone, there is a potential that you could get this -- that you could get coronavirus when you go to the grocery store. You don't know what you're touching.

And we know this virus can live on surfaces. You are trying to stay distant from people, but, sometimes, it's not always possible. I was in the grocery store and someone sort of bumped into me. I mean, that can happen.

So, of course, if you live in a more densely populated place, like New York City, you're at higher risk. It's harder to get away from people, but you can also end up close to people or close to surfaces even when you live, let's say, in a rural area.

BALDWIN: Lastly -- and you alluded to this a minute ago -- that, for weeks, the surgeon general told people, stop buying masks. The CDC has said masks don't protect you anyway.

So why are we hearing this from the White House now?

COHEN: Because, a month ago, when the surgeon general said that, there wasn't this widespread community spread, like we're seeing now. So the calculus was different.

It's, do we want to encourage Americans to go out and get masks, when there isn't the kind of community the spread that we are seeing now? Now we are seeing much more of it.

[15:10:03]

I'm certainly talking to doctors who are saying, you just don't know where it is, especially because so many people are asymptomatic when they have it. And we can't emphasize that enough. So many people don't have symptoms, but can transmit it. In fact, there are some models that say that about half of the

transmission that's going on is by people who don't have symptoms. So, all the more reason to wear a mask, because you really don't know why it's out there.

But to answer your question, Brooke, the reason we're hearing about this now is that we didn't have the kind of community spread a month ago that we do now.

BALDWIN: Right. Right. I got it. Protect ourselves and wear those masks. I need to get some.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Coming up next on CNN: He has been critical of the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden joins me live ahead.

Plus, tomorrow is the 1st of the month, when many bills are due, as Americans feel the economic pain of the pandemic. How to cope -- next.

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BALDWIN: welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And tomorrow may mark an impossible deadline for millions of Americans. The mortgage is due, the rent is due, and so many of you simply don't have the money to pay the bills. So what do you do?

Let me bring in Monica Mehta. She's a finance expert and managing principal at Seventh Capital, a commercial real estate firm.

And, Monica, hope you're well.

Just in terms of finances here, I know that the Trump administration says that those stimulus checks will be direct-deposited in three weeks, at best. So, in the meantime, what do you do if you can't pay your rent tomorrow?

MONICA MEHTA, FINANCE EXPERT: I think the situation individuals is the same as the situation for small businesses.

It's all about managing cash flow. And even though we're all trying to practice social distancing right now, that doesn't mean that you're alone in dealing with this. It's all about reaching in and tapping into communities that you're a part of.

So, as part of this stimulus relief, individuals who are worried about being able to pay the rent or the mortgage should know that there's a 120-day moratorium on evictions by landlords. Now, this doesn't mean that it applies to all landlords nationwide. It's only those that have mortgages outstanding with federal agencies like Fannie and Freddie. And it doesn't also mean that the renter won't get evicted when all of

this is said and done. It just is a deferral.

So, the biggest thing that you can do is, if you're worried about being able to pay your rent or pay your mortgage, is to contact your landlord or contact the lender that you're dealing with and let them know the situation you're in, and try to work with them to figure out a payment option.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: What if you're not protected, Monica, to -- you said a moment ago there is this moratorium, but it doesn't impact everyone.

MEHTA: Right.

BALDWIN: So why are there protections from getting evicted if you can't pay?

MEHTA: Yes, so, so much of this is also on a city and state level.

So, despite these federal guidelines, it's really important to Google and see, what are the applicable moratoriums and laws in your specific state? In -- and also in certain regions, like Chicago, for example, they have instituted rent payment grants.

So, 2,000 people will get $1,000 to help offset their rent in the month of April. And for something like that, again, look in your city. There's all sorts of nonprofits, there's all sorts of government agencies that are aware of the hard time that people are having, and they're trying to help.

The other thing to really keep in mind is, a lot of credit cards and lenders are providing assistance to those who are financially burdened. They're waiving fees. They're extending due dates. And this is not just for your credit. It can be for auto loans, mortgages.

This is not only for consumers, but also for small businesses. Again, with the stimulus, there's additional loan relief that small businesses can apply for. And this is through disaster emergency relief up to $2 million.

And the whole point of that is to try to help small businesses really hold on to their employees and pay the payroll. And if you do that, some of these loans turn into grants. So there's a lot of relief out there. You have to look for it.

Also, look into churches, look into food banks in your area. Schools, school districts are continuing to provide lunches and breakfast to students. Everyone...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Those are amazing resources. And you bring up food. And we were just showing pictures of grocery store shelves. And we know, since people are getting -- a lot of people will be paid tomorrow, the 1st of the month, we're already seeing this rush on grocery essentials, eggs, milk, canned goods, many of which are WIC- eligible items.

And for low-income families who can only buy those specific items, what do they do, Monica, if they're wiped out at stores?

MEHTA: Well, what the rest of us can do is try to be conscious of this and try to wait on purchasing WIC items. And those items are labeled in the grocery stores.

There are also nonprofits that are stepping in and trying to provide emergency cash relief. One that I want to mention is Give Together Now. Give Together Now is giving cash grants. Again, this is not something that you have to pay back. And this is to low income- families.

And they're working with some of the largest philanthropies in America to make sure that low-income Americans can get the cash they need to pay their bills right now.

BALDWIN: Say it one more time. It's Give Together Now?

MEHTA: Give Together Now.

BALDWIN: OK.

MEHTA: You can apply for money, and you can also donate there, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the families in need.

BALDWIN: OK.

Monica Mehta, thank you very much for all those resources for people who are listening, some of whom are struggling right now. Thank you.

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A New Orleans official says the city is preparing for a -- quote, unquote -- "significant amount of deaths."

How they're trying to prevent that -- next.

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BALDWIN: Shocking numbers out of Louisiana.

The state has just reported more than 1,200 new cases in just the last day. And now a top health officials in New Orleans is warning they are preparing for a significant amount of hospitalizations and deaths.

Let's go straight to our correspondent Ed Lavandera, who is live in New Orleans.

And, Ed, the governor there is requesting urgent help from the federal government. Is he getting it?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't know yet.

They have requested and been told that some 150 ventilators are on their way, but they haven't arrived yet. The governor is about to speak here in Louisiana in about 10 minutes.

So we will see if we get an update. But the number of cases here in Louisiana has really exploded today, more than 1,200 cases, now tops 5,200 and 239 deaths, this as officials all across the state are urging everyone over and over again to stay at home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The somber sound of a lone trumpet trickles down Royal Street in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Haji Akbar plays alone. His big band is keeping its distance. And there are just a few people hanging around. The New Orleans area has the most coronavirus cases in Louisiana. But what's most troubling for health officials here is how deadly it's been just in this city.

COLLIN ARNOLD, NEW ORLEANS OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: We're tracking it about 5 percent on the mortality rate, and it's just -- that's high. And our population has a higher rate of underlying health conditions.

LAVANDERA: Governor John Bel Edwards says he's requested 14,000 ventilators, but has only received 192 so far. The governor says ventilator supplies could run out by this Sunday.

Edwards says President Trump committed to sending 150 more, but those still haven't arrived. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell says even more are urgently needed.

LATOYA CANTRELL, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: In no way that seems. Very grateful right, to the 150. And -- but the need is still great here. Our men and women, our health care professionals are on the front line tirelessly 24/7.

LAVANDERA: Another troubling sign is the growing number of coronavirus clusters found in about 40 long-term care facilities for the elderly. And with the numbers of overall cases still growing, the governor has extended the shelter-at-home order until the end of April.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): We are nowhere near over the hump, that we still have an awful lot of work to do to try to flatten the curve.

LAVANDERA: State officials are also cracking down on residents congregating in large crowds. New Orleans police arrested the man who organized this second line funeral procession for violating the state's shelter-at-home order. The mayor says the man's family has apologized. CANTRELL: It has really sent a message to our community throughout

our musician community. Our cultural bearers have stepped up and said, hey, no more in the city of New Orleans. This is very serious here.

LAVANDERA: For musicians like Haji Akbar, who feels at home on the French Quarter streets, it isn't easy playing music alone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, Brooke, another clue of just how seriously state officials here are taking the stay-at-home orders, there's been a pastor near Baton Rouge who's been holding church services on Sundays for the last few weeks.

That pastor has now been charged with six misdemeanor counts of disobeying the governor's order. He had like 1,200 people in his church over the weekend. His father had told reporters there that the gathering of church is an essential service.

State officials are saying that his behavior is irresponsible and reckless.

BALDWIN: I understand people wanting to gather and worship, but, at this time, it's just -- it just seems irresponsible.

The question is -- I know you're listening for the governor, Eddie -- is, what about ventilators in Louisiana? How urgent is the need?

LAVANDERA: Well, it sounds like that that is the number one issue that state officials have here.

They have been setting up hospital bed space in the Convention Center in New Orleans. But just to give you a sense, if you look at the numbers that were released just a few hours ago, the number of people on ventilators here in the state of Louisiana jumped by 50 in the last 24 hours.

President Trump has promised the governor, according to the governor, 150 ventilators here in the coming days from the national stockpile. So already, with that, a third of that would already be gone, theoretically.

So that is the thing that we keep hearing over and over again at every level of government here in Louisiana, is that urgent need to get those ventilators here before it's too late.

BALDWIN: Yes. Ed, thank you, listening out for the governor in Louisiana.

Meantime, across the country, Walmart is now going to start taking the temperature of employees when they show up to work, while a cruise ship with at least eight cases of coronavirus on board is begging Florida officials to let it dock.

Our correspondents are covering these angles and more.

CNN's Rosa Flores starts off with that

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